Buying Social Media Followers Could Land You in Legal Trouble

February 22, 2019

Thinking of buying social media followers? May we, a group of social media lawyers, offer some guidance: Don’t do it! State attorneys general are cracking down on the practice and dolling out fines. What was once a common practice could now land you in a mound of legal trouble.

New York AG Wins “Buying Social Media Followers” Case Against Colorado Company

The New York Attorney General’s office announced a $50,000 settlement with a Colorado company over fraudulent social media marketing services. Alleged offenses included selling followers on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

The case kicked off last year after then NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman started investigating a company that made nearly $15 million, in just a few short years, by boosting the social media profiles of well-heeled clients.

Sure, the dollar amount isn’t exactly eye-popping; $50,000 on $15 million doesn’t pack any punitive punch. But the case is significant in that it, according to Forbes, “marks the first instance in which a law enforcement agency has successfully taken against fraudulent social media activity.”

According to reports, some of the company’s clients understood the fake nature of their new social media friends; others believed the increases were genuine. Moreover, the defendant’s commodification of falsified accounts put it squarely in the social media fraud column. They also failed to comply with social media disclosure standards that require paid and compensated posts to include a #paid, #ad, or #sponsored hashtag.

And it looks like New York’s recently elected attorney general, Letitia James, is keen to mitigate online fraud. James explained that, in this case, the defendants violated New York State’s false advertising laws. She also vowed to “continue to find and stop anyone who sells online deception,” and explained that her office is “sending a clear message that anyone profiting off of deception and impersonation is breaking the law and will be held accountable.”

Cross-Border Regulations: You’re Responsible for All State Laws, Regardless of Your Location

When it comes to marketing and advertising, most businesses must adhere to federal regulations, plus state and international rules. Why? Because customers’ locations matter. For example, if you’re an Illinois-based business, but allow people in New York to access and interact with your site, then you’re also responsible for adhering to New York State’s incredibly broad false advertising standard in which “any advertising that is misleading in any significant way” qualifies.

Don’t Risk It: Get A False Advertising Audit

Something as little as failing to properly label a tweet can land you a multimillion-dollar fine. That’s not an exaggeration. Avoid confrontations with the FTC and state authorities by letting an advertising and marketing attorney review your promotional campaigns before launch. If you’ve already been accused, by all means get in touch. Our firm is one of the few that’s won against the FTC in a regulatory promotional case. So let’s talk about your needs. Get in touch today to begin the conversation.

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